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130 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Local Search Automation Tool

dorfman-adam
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Map and ClipboardChoosing a local search automation vendor can be a complicated and intimidating decision for companies with hundreds or thousands of brick-and-mortar locations.

Performing well in local search depends on many different tactics, so finding a partner with tools and technology to help you manage them all is critical for regional-local and national-local organizations.

Not all of the questions below might be applicable to your business, but hopefully they will allow you to make a smarter decision when picking a company to team up with.

Listing Management

  1. Which data aggregators does [VENDOR NAME] partner with?
  2. How frequently does [VENDOR NAME] push data for your clients?
  3. How many sites does [VENDOR NAME]'s network syndicate to?
  4. Can [VENDOR NAME]'s platform send and publish to Google directly?
  5. Which publisher relationships are direct? Which are third-party relationships?
  6. What measures are taken to ensure data consistency across all channels so engines will index listings?
  7. What tools exist to help with duplicate listing suppression?
  8. How long does it take for publisher sites to update my information?
  9. Does [VENDOR NAME] fix one-off inaccuracies on publisher sites? How?
  10. How does [VENDOR NAME] monitor and report on the accuracy of data being distributed?
  11. What happens to the syndicated data if we stop working with [VENDOR NAME]?

Local Search Optimization

  1. What search engines does [VENDOR NAME] provide optimization for?
  2. Describe [VENDOR NAME]'s philosophy as it relates to local search optimization.
  3. Describe [VENDOR NAME]'s philosophy as it relates to organic local search optimization.
  4. What information does [VENDOR NAME] recommend pushing to the search engines?
  5. Are there additional components and tactics [VENDOR NAME] can recommend that can increase my performance on the search engines?
  6. How do we report issues with information being listed on search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing?
  7. How can [VENDOR NAME] show the effectiveness of your local search optimization efforts?

Local Content

  1. How is the local content created and where is it stored? Who writes creates the content necessary to perform well?
  2. What tools exist to help localize existing content?
  3. Does [VENDOR NAME] build out our local pages, or do we? How does this happen?
  4. Can we update the data that lives on those pages?

Data Management

  1. How does [VENDOR NAME] accept bulk data from clients?
  2. Describe how we would submit our data to [VENDOR NAME]?
  3. How does [VENDOR NAME] ensure data is always up to date when locations go in or out of business?
  4. What information is required for each of my locations?
  5. What tools exist that will allow for easy updating and maintenance of location information?

CMS

  1. Is the UI a "what you see is what you get" (WYSIWYG) interface?
  2. Does [VENDOR NAME] provide data storage?
  3. What internal IT resources does the CMS require?
  4. Can we integrate the local CMS with our internal database?
  5. How does the local CMS interact with our enterprise website CMS?

SEO/Site Architecture

  1. How are the locations pages optimized for search engine performance? If so, how?
  2. What tools and processes does [VENDOR NAME] have to mitigate duplicate content when it comes to location pages.
  3. What is the average page load time for the location pages?
  4. Do these pages utilize microformatting? If so, which formats?
  5. Is there a clearly defined hierarchy to the location pages?
  6. Are the location pages easily found and indexed by the search engines via crawlable directory pages?
  7. Are the directory pages designed to pass PageRank through to the location pages efficiently? How?
  8. Are the directory pages customizable?
  9. Are there different hierarchy structures that can be created other than geographic?
  10. Does [VENDOR NAME] create an XML sitemap? How is that sitemap optimized and kept up to date?
  11. What are five differentiators that [VENDOR NAME] provides as it relates to SEO performance?

Mobile Capabilities

  1. How will our pages be optimized for a mobile experience?
  2. Are [VENDOR NAME]'s local pages enabled with responsive design? Will the pages be optimized for all types of operating systems and devices?
  3. Will the pages show up in mobile search results?
  4. Will we have a presence in Apple and Android apps, like AroundMe?
  5. Will our location information be sent to GPS and car navigation sites?
  6. Will our local pages be optimized with touch-screen capabilities for tablet and smartphone users?

Store Locator

  1. Can [VENDOR NAME] provide a store locator to guide website visitors to local pages?
  2. Can [VENDOR NAME] customize the look and feel of the locator? If so, how?
  3. What if we already have a store locator and we don't want to change it?
  4. Can we add multiple filters on the store locator?
  5. Is the locator optimized for a mobile experience?
  6. What mapping solution(s) (Google, Bing, OpenStreetMap, etc.) is [VENDOR NAME] integrated with?

Group Pages

  1. Does [VENDOR NAME] offer group pages?
  2. Can they be customized based on one or many database fields?
  3. How are locations added or removed from group pages?
  4. How do you ensure that locations that are no longer in business are removed from group pages? How do you ensure that new ones are added when appropriate?
  5. What options exist to vary how locations are ordered and displayed in any given group?
  6. Can the group pages be managed from within the CMS?

International/Multilingual

  1. Are [VENDOR NAME]'s local pages/local CMS configured for international locations?
  2. Can the CMS be configured to display in multiple languages?
  3. How does [VENDOR NAME] handle publishing content in multiple languages?
  4. What tactics are used to ensure secondary language pages are optimized for performance locally and organically?

Reporting

  1. How much insight can [VENDOR NAME] give us on local activity? What metrics does [VENDOR NAME] use?
  2. Does corporate have access to dashboards and reporting?
  3. Can locations or regions access dashboards and reports?
  4. Is [VENDOR NAME] able to automate reports?
  5. Can reports be automated and sent to field locations?
  6. Does the UI allow for customizable KPIs?
  7. What metrics for local search optimization does [VENDOR NAME] show in reporting?
  8. How does [VENDOR NAME] report on citation accuracy?
  9. What type of reporting for social media does [VENDOR NAME] offer?
  10. How does [VENDOR NAME] reporting integrate with existing reporting we may use?
  11. From what other tools (Web analytics, CRMs, etc.) can [VENDOR NAME] import reporting metrics?
  12. Can we include our own website analytics code on [VENDOR NAME]'s pages?
  13. Can [VENDOR NAME] import local relevant data into its interface from our website analytics provider?
  14. Does [VENDOR NAME] reporting break down easily to view results by location, region, or brand?
  15. Can [VENDOR NAME] offer customizable reports for individual users? How are those reports configured?
  16. What is [VENDOR NAME]'s point of view as it relates to call tracking and local search optimization?

Workflow and Moderation

  1. Does [VENDOR NAME] provide various permission levels for different users to login (Corporate, Regional, Divisional, Local)?
  2. Can we add our own user accounts?
  3. Are customizable configurations available for each user? How are the configurations created?
  4. Does [VENDOR NAME]'s platform allow for multiple divisions of a brand to log in into the system? Can we segment what each division sees?
  5. What workflow management and moderation tools does [VENDOR NAME] offer?
  6. How do we approve content updates from regional or local users?
  7. What tools does [VENDOR NAME] offer to encourage locations to update their pages?

Compliance

  1. Please describe how [VENDOR NAME]'s platform enables compliance for any industry regulations with which you must comply (examples include FINRA, SEC, SOC-2, HIPPA, IROC, FSA, etc.).
  2. What tools does [VENDOR NAME] offer to enable brand guideline compliance?

Platform Security

  1. Describe the security protocols in place to ensure all confidential data is being protected.
  2. Can [VENDOR NAME] provide results from Intrusion Detection System (IDS) monitoring from the past 90 days?
  3. Can [VENDOR NAME] provide a copy of a penetration test and vulnerability assessment of systems that process, store, or transmit our data that was conducted by a disinterested third party in the past 12 months?
  4. Who hosts the pages? (e.g. Vendor provides server)
  5. Please describe [VENDOR NAME]'s hosting infrastructure.
  6. What data redundancy does [VENDOR NAME] have in place?
  7. What has been the uptime for [VENDOR NAME]'s CMS for the past 24 months?
  8. What has been the uptime for the location pages [VENDOR NAME]'s platform powers for the past 24 months?
  9. What service level agreements (SLAs) come with the platform?

API Capabilities

  1. Which platforms and technologies does [VENDOR NAME] currently interface with through an API?
  2. Does [VENDOR NAME] have an API we can connect with? If yes, please provide documentation.
  3. What features are we able to manage via API?
  4. What security and protection does [VENDOR NAME]'s API have?
  5. Can we integrate our proprietary forms onto the location and directory pages? What about forms from Salesforce or other customer relationship management (CRM) platforms?

Service Package

  1. Describe [VENDOR NAME]'s onboarding process.
  2. What can you tell me about the service side of [VENDOR NAME]'s platform?
  3. How is the team that will be working with us structured?
  4. Do we have a dedicated account manager?
  5. Do you have SLAs in place for response times of reported issues?
  6. How would we report issues at corporate? What about individual locations?
  7. What are all the different ways we can interact with [VENDOR NAME]'s support team?
  8. Can [VENDOR NAME] offer a custom service package?
  9. Would we be responsible for resolving location issues or does [VENDOR NAME]'s team handle them?

Social Media

  1. Does the location page solution have social components included?
  2. What is the philosophy of [VENDOR NAME] as it relates to promoting local social network accounts vs. corporate ones?
  3. Can [VENDOR NAME] provide social monitoring for locations?
  4. Does [VENDOR NAME] have a social publishing platform for locations?
  5. Are there tools in place to ensure brand and regulatory compliance when publishing to social platforms?
  6. Can [VENDOR NAME] provide us with posting moderation?
  7. Does [VENDOR NAME] offer integration with Facebook? Twitter? LinkedIn? Google+?
  8. Describe the integration [VENDOR NAME] provides with each. Is [VENDOR NAME] able to update pages? Post to news streams? Reply to comments from a location's network?
  9. Can I create location-specific posts for my social networks?
  10. Are there tools to localize content being published?
  11. Do I need to set up the social media profiles for each location or will [VENDOR NAME]?
  12. Can you create or claim social media accounts on behalf of our locations?
  13. What if I don't want to have individual social media profiles for each of my locations?

Reviews

  1. Does [VENDOR NAME] have a way to generate reviews? If yes, please describe the technology powering reviews.
  2. Do reviews get published on our local pages or on other review sites?
  3. What review sites does [VENDOR NAME] recommend we focus on?
  4. What tools exist that enable me to monitor and respond to reviews?

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